Even Fake Gadgets Can Get Energy Star Approval!

Pick one and get it approved Energy Star

The Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary energy efficiency labeling Energy Star is so lax that even completely made-up and obviously ridiculous gadgets can get certified. That was the finding by Congressional auditors who submitted and gained Energy Star certification for a “gasoline-powered alarm clock” and an “air purifier” that was just an electric space heater with a feather duster pasted on top of it, reports the New York Times.

Sad — the EPA was supposed to be beefing up its program, and back in December had cracked down on Korean electronics giant LG saying that it couldn’t use the Energy Star logo for more than a dozen of its refrigerators starting in the new year because they weren’t energy efficient enough. (LG is also having problems with not meeting energy efficiency requirements in Australia right now).

The Energy Star-approved Air Purifier

The congressional auditors found that “the Energy Star program was highly vulnerable to fraud,” that companies could download and use the Energy Star label for whatever they wanted, and that an automated system did many of the approvals without any human involvement (hence probably why a picture of a space heater glued to a feather duster could get through).

It’s particularly disturbing because the stimulus package has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for a rebate program for consumers that buy Energy Star appliances. Seems like more of that funding should have just gone to help the Energy Star program budget to rehaul itself.

The EPA and DOE got ahead of the report and last week released an announcement outlining steps for how to strengthen Energy Star. Good luck to the 18-year-old program that still can’t get it right.

For related research see GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Green Gadgets: What to Look for at CES

Gadget Makers, Embrace the Teardown

Image courtesy of splorp’s photostream Flickr Creative Commons.

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